Donald Trump: 2020 Physical Examination

Circus-like physicals
For physical exams while he was a private citizen, Trump said, "Well, I try and do it every year" 1. His long-time personal physician has written: "He has had an annual physical exam in the spring of every year" 2.

As a candidate, Trump issued three statements about his medical health:

  • 2015: (December)   MORE 3 (Physician statement #1)
  • 2016: (September)  MORE 2 (Physician statement #2)
  • 2016: (September)  MORE 1 (Interviews: Dr. Oz, Fox)
Since taking office, Trump has had more-or-less yearly physical examinations at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center:
  • 2017: (January)  Takes office.
  • 2018: (January)  MORE 4 Press briefing: MORE 5
  • 2019: (February) MORE 6
  • 2019: (November) MORE 7 sham exam part 1
  • 2020: (June)     SEE BELOW 8 sham exam part 2
The main medical results from these evaluations are tabulated elsewhere MORE, and are discussed in various pages.

Comment: Incredibly, these physical examinations, which one would expect to be routine, staid affairs, took on circus-like characteristics:

  • The 2015 report had ridiculous, unprofessional hyperbole that made Trump's physician a national laughingstock. It later emerged that Trump wrote this report himself.
  • The 2018 report was delivered during a press conference in which the President's physician made good-humored and properly caveated remarks that commentators unfairly inflated to ridiculousness.
  • The first 2019 report, though more subdued (and, sadly, far less complete), still contained unsupportable prognostications from the new presidential physician.
  • The second 2019 report, for Trump's "interim checkup" -- if that's what it really was -- is a shambles. Subtexts of the nonsensical statements from the White House and the President's physician strongly suggest it was not a routine examination at all, but a hurried, abrupt consultation at Walter Reed for undisclosed medical reasons.
  • The 2020 report was no report at all, except for confirming with painful clarity the degree to which the White House physician is a patsy of his President. Worse, with a presidential election occurring less than five months later, the results of this physical examination will be the only recent medical data available to the electorate when they vote.

Hence, four times in three years confidence in the office of the President's physician was undermined -- a low ebb in its history. Even if one credulously believes that the President's medical team has been completely and honestly forthcoming, all this sturm und drang is itself dangerous, as it can easily detract from substantive medical issues -- as it already seems to have done with Trump's sleep.

Trump's 2020 physical examination, reported in June 2020, was unorthodox, if it occurred at all.

Supposedly the medical assessment began in November 2019, when Trump and his physician made an unannounced, lengthy visit to Walter Reed medical center MORE. At that time, Trump's physician wrote that "a more comprehensive examination" was planned for "after the New Year" 7.

In the new year, the press asked about the completion of his physical on March 2 9 10, May 22 11, and June 1 12 (at least). Finally, on June 3 the report was released 13. (See below.)

Comment: Dr. Zebra believes this report is a lie, with more evasions than statements of fact.

  1. The report describes "no findings of significance" in the review of systems or the physical examination. This is a useless disclosure.
  2. The White House wants the public to assume that the examination was thorough, but nothing in the report or in Dr. Conley's previous reports suggests he is thorough -- just the opposite, in fact.
    • The logic is obvious: if Dr. Conley does not examine the neck, he cannot report a cancer in the president's thyroid gland.
    • Given the "no findings of significance" statement, it is no violation of medical confidentiality to disclose what was examined -- it is merely information on how thorough the physician is.
    • This level of detail has been disclosed for many presidential exams in the past, including Trump's 2018 exam MORE.
  3. What does "significance" mean to Dr. Conley?
    • He does not tell us, and again he wants us to trust him.
    • His easiest course is to define "significance" to mean "immediately life threatening" -- which is not the same as "able to function as President without medical impediment."
  4. No list of consultation specialties is provided, as has been a recent tradition in presidential examinations.
Other criticisms are warranted:
  1. It is a non-report. It discloses information that is immaterial to the president's exercise of the office.
  2. It is not possible to tell the date on which any of the results were obtained. All results lie somewhere in the 5 months between November and April. This almost defeats the purpose of disclosing an examination to the public every 12 months.
  3. Why was there a two-month delay between completing the examination in April and releasing the results in June? The only data disclosed in the report is from vital signs and simple blood tests -- all of which would have been resulted a day after examining the President. Dr. Zebra hypothesizes that writing the report was the time-consuming part, requiring political and legal staff coordination to craft a report that concealed negative information without putting a provable falsehood in print.

Cited Sources
  1. Cillizza, Chris; Blake, Aaron. Donald Trump's interview with Dr. Oz was just as amazingly strange as we thought it would be. (Published 15 September, 2016. Downloaded on 2019-12-01.) Available on the web:

    Comment: Also includes annotations by Cillizza and Blake. Their interview transcript is archived here: MORE

  2. Bornstein, Harold N. [Public Letter]. (Published 13 Sept. 2016. Downloaded on 2019-11-30.) Available on the web:

    Comment: Dr. Bornstein became Trump's physician in 1980. Bornstein's letter is linked to by Frizell (op cit) and is archived here -->   MORE

  3. Bump, Philip. Donald Trump's doctor came down with a case of Trumpitis. (Published 26 Aug. 2016 (revision of original Dec. 2015 story). Downloaded on 2019-11-25.) Available on the web:

    Comment: This articles relates to the first of Dr. Bornstein's letters, reprinted here -->   MORE

  4. Jackson, Ronny L. (M.D.). The President's Periodic Physical Exam. (Published January 16, 2018. Downloaded on 2019-11-21.) Available on the web:

    Comment: The document is archived here -->   MORE. Also highly informative is the press briefing where the report was delivered: MORE.

  5. Sanders, Sarah; Jackson Ronny. Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and Dr. Ronny Jackson. (Published 16 Jan. 2018. Downloaded on 2019-12-28.) Available on the web:

    Comment: A transcript of the press briefing is archived here --> MORE

  6. Conley, Sean (D.O.). The President's Second Periodic Physical Exam. (Published February 14, 2019. Downloaded on 2019-11-25.) Available on the web:

    Comment: The document is archived here -->   MORE

  7. Conley, Sean (D.O.). Interim Check Up. (Published November 18, 2019. Downloaded on 2019-11-21.) Available on the web:

    Comment: The document is archived here -->   MORE

  8. Conley, Sean (D.O.). President Donald J. Trump's Periodic Physical Exam. (Published June 3, 2020. Downloaded on 2020-06-10.) Available on the web:

    Comment: The document is unacceptably vague about dates. For example, it is not possible to determine on what date between Nov. 2019 and April 2020 the President's weight was measured. The document is archived here -->   MORE

  9. [White House release]. Remarks by President Trump Before Marine One Departure. (Published Mar. 2, 2020. Downloaded on 2020-06-18.) Available on the web:
  10. [C-Span transcript]. President Trump Departs White House. (Published 2 March 2020. Downloaded on 2020-06-18.) Available on the web:
  11. Bennett, Geoff; Alba, Monica. 6 months on, Trump hasn't completed his physical. The White House won't say why. (Published May 22, 2020. Downloaded on 2020-06-10.) Available on the web:
  12. [Unsigned Editorial]. The president's health is our business. Washington Post. 1 June 2020, page A20.
  13. McEnany, Kayleigh. Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. (Published 2020-06-03. Downloaded on 2020-06-09.) Available on the web:

    Comment: Video available:

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